Quieted with Love :: Advent’s Love

Reflection: Quieted with Love :: Advent’s Love
By Steven Dilla

“We, today, have a language to celebrate waywardness,” observes contemporary artist Makoto Fujimura, “but we do not have a cultural language to bring people back home.” This reality makes the prophetic words of Zephaniah stand out:

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you with his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

The Hebrew language, despite having extraordinarily fewer words than modern languages like English, dedicates multiple words to describing the idea and experience of love. The word the authors, poets and artists of the Hebrew Bible frequently use for God’s love is hesed, meaning God’s covenant, unfailing love.

Another word for love, often used to describe different types of love in human relationships, is ahab.

Jacob’s ahab for Rachel gives him the dedication to work 14 years for a chance at her hand in marriage. It’s ahab as a passionate, unrelenting love.

Jonathan’s ahab for his friend David leads him to remove his royal robe and place it over David’s shoulders—a symbol that David was now a rightful heir to the throne, as well as everything that belonged to Jonathan, the son of the king. It’s ahab as selfless, sacrificial love.

Zephaniah says God pursues his people in ahab.

God’s love for us is passionate and unrelenting—he pursued us even to death on a cross.

Through resurrection Christ has clothed us with the garments of salvation; he has covered us with the robe of righteousness. We are rightful heirs to the Kingdom of God, as well as everything that belongs to Jesus, the Son of the King.

Advent, as a season of reflection, tunes our hearts to depths of God’s love for us. As a season of anticipation, Advent focuses our hope to the day Christ will restore our disquieted souls, heal our deepest wounds, and rejoice over us as his beloved children.

Listen: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by Ella Fitzgerald (1:27)

The Small Verse
Keep me, Lord as the apple of your eye and carry me under the shadow of your wings. — Psalm 17.8

– From 
Christmastide: Prayers for Advent Through Epiphany from The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 6.12-42 (Listen – 7:17)
1 John 5 (Listen – 3:00)

Risks of Faith :: Advent’s Love

Reflection: Risks of Faith :: Advent’s Love
By Steven Dilla

It is God’s love for us, not ours for him, that is the context for faith. Our ability to love God is imperfect—though spiritual disciplines and the rhythms of community can shape them greatly, as C.S. Lewis explains in Mere Christianity:

People are often worried. They are told they ought to love God. They cannot find any such feeling in themselves. What are they to do? The answer is the same as before. Act as if you did. Do not sit trying to manufacture feelings. Ask yourself, ‘If I were sure that I loved God, what would I do?’ When you have found the answer, go and do it.

Lewis isn’t deceived—“go and do it” only works until you can’t, or simply don’t—then what becomes of faith? He continues:

On the whole, God’s love for us is a much safer subject to think about than our love for Him. Nobody can always have devout feelings: and even if we could, feelings are not what God principally cares about.

Christian Love, either towards God or towards man, is an affair of the will. If we are trying to do His will we are obeying the commandment, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.’

He will give us feelings of love if He pleases. We cannot create them for ourselves, and we must not demand them as a right. But the great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.

There is no faith without risk, and no reward in heaven for returning spiritual armor without dents. The armor of God is to protect believers as we apply our faith in a broken world—will not our hearts grow weary? The gospel is that Christ has succeeded where we have failed.

We do not shrink back because we are inconsistent in our love for God—we take risks of faith because God is relentless in his love for us.

Listen: It Came Upon A Midnight Clear by Ella Fitzgerald (3:20)

The Greeting
Into your hands I commend my spirit, for you have redeemed me, O Lord, O God of truth. — Psalm 31.5

– From 
Christmastide: Prayers for Advent Through Epiphany from The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 5-6.11 (Listen – 9:47)
1 John 4 (Listen – 2:58)

The Gift of Service :: Advent’s Love

Reflection: The Gift of Service :: Advent’s Love
By Steven Dilla

The story of Christ’s birth is the story of giving. Christ humbled himself. He was familiar with financial tension (his family lived at the sustenance level). He knew the pressures of vocation, and of working one job though he was designed for another—the Messiah was a carpenter for well over a decade. He gave himself to obedience, even to the point of death.

The words of Scripture instruct us to live as Christ lived, and draw models for Christian living from those that came before us. One such person to examine is Wenceslas I, the Duke of Bohemia, who later became a king and a saint. Ed Masters, writing for Regina Magazine, chronicles Wenceslas’ reputation:

He was generous to and provided support for the needs of the indigent, the widows and orphans. He bought freedom for slaves and even visited prisoners during the night, giving them alms and listening to their concerns as well as exhorting them to leave their former ways of life behind and to repent of their crimes. He was known to have carried wood on his back in the middle of the night to those that needed it for fuel and assisted at the funerals of the poor.

The saint was memorialized in the 1853 song, “Good King Wenceslas,” which celebrates the power of following the footsteps of a holy man. The fourth verse opens with the king’s page weakening as they press into the night to serve a poor man in the snow:

“Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer.”
“Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter’s rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly.”
In his master’s steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed.

Wenceslas did not walk under his own strength; the king was often found at night praying in the church. His gifts of service were expressions of Christ’s ultimate gift—something our service to others can bring to life this holiday season.

Listen: Good King Wenceslas by Downhere (3:03)

The Morning Psalm
Great are the deeds of the Lord! They are studied by all who delight in them. — Psalm 111.2

– From 
Christmastide: Prayers for Advent Through Epiphany from The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 3-4 (Listen – 5:42)
1 John 3 (Listen – 4:41)

Restful Meditations :: Advent’s Hope

Reflection: Restful Meditations :: Advent’s Hope
By Steven Dilla

Focusing our hearts on Christ, the hope of Advent, expands the holiday experience beyond mere merriness. In the gospel our hearts find rest from pain and hope for renewal.

“Jesus, my feet are dirty,” prayed Origen in the third century. “Come even as a slave to me, pour water into your bowl, come and wash my feet. In asking such a thing I know I am overbold, but I dread what was threatened when you said to me, ‘If I do not wash your feet I have no fellowship with you.’ Wash my feet then, because I long for your companionship.”

Origen’s prayer captures the spirit of Advent: looking back at Christ’s work on our behalf, looking forward at the completion of his fellowship, and longing for his presence and power today.
Another third century prayer, an anonymous Syriac Christmas liturgy, gives words to this hope:

The radiance of the Father’s splendor, the Father’s visible image, Jesus Christ our God, peerless among counselors, Prince of Peace, Father of the world to come, the model after which Adam was formed, for our sakes became like a slave: in the womb of Mary the virgin, without assistance from any man, he took flesh.

Enable us, Lord, to reach the end of this luminous feast in peace, forsaking all idle words, acting virtuously, shunning our passions, and raising ourselves above the things of this world.
Bless your church, which you brought into being long ago and attached to yourself through your own life-giving blood…

Bless your servants, whose trust is all in you; bless all Christian souls, the sick, those tormented by evil spirits, and those who have asked us to pray for them.

Show yourself as merciful as you are rich in grace; save and preserve us; enable us to obtain those good things to come which will never know an end.

May we celebrate your glorious birth, and the Father who sent you to redeem us, and your Spirit, the Giver of life, now and forever, age after age. Amen.

Christ, may our hearts find their rest in you, the hope of Advent.

Listen: Greensleves by Vince Guaraldi Trio.

The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. — 2 Corinthians 4.6

– From 
Christmastide: Prayers for Advent Through Epiphany from The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Chronicles 29 (Listen – 5:50)
2Peter 3 (Listen – 3:21)

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 1 (Listen – 2:47) 1 John 1 (Listen – 6:18)
2 Chronicles 2 (Listen – 3:41) 1 John 2 (Listen – 3:02)

Daily Idols :: Throwback Thursday

Daily Idols :: Throwback Thursday

By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

Little children, keep yourselves from idols. —1 John 5.21

Keep yourselves from worshipping yourselves. Alas, how many fall into this gross sin!

There are those who worship themselves by living a life of indolence. They flit from pleasure to pleasure, from show to show, from vanity to vanity, as if this life were only a garden in which butterflies might fly from flower to flower, and not a sphere where serious work was to be done and all-important business for eternity was to be accomplished.

Then there are some people who make idols of their wealth. Getting money seems to be the main purpose of their lives. Now, it is right that a Christian man should be diligent in business, he should not be second to anybody in the diligence with which he attends to the affairs of this life; but it is always a pity when we can be truthfully told, “So-and-so is getting richer every year, but he has got stingier also. He gives less now than he gave when he had only half as much as he now has.”

Some worship the pursuit which they have undertaken. They give their whole soul up to their art, or their particular calling, whatever it may be. In a certain sense, this is a right thing to do; yet we must never forget that the first and great commandment is, “Thou shalt love the Lord your God with all you heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This must always have the first place.

Let me here touch a very tender point. There are some who make idols of their dearest relatives and friends. Some have done this with their children. Make no idol of your child. Love them as much as you please—but always love them, in such a fashion that Christ shall have the first place in your hearts.

The catalogue of idols that we are apt to worship is a very long one. Remember that God has a right to your whole being. There is nothing, and there can be nothing, which ought to be supreme in your affections save your Lord; and if you worship anything, or any ideal, whatever it may be, if you love that more than you love your God, you are an idolater, and you are disobeying the command of the text, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”

Today’s Reading
Isaiah 27 (Listen – 2:16)
1 John 5 (Listen – 3:00)

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